On some days, it’s hard to believe Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer ever hired Dale Sveum as manager of the Cubs.
Epstein and Hoyer are a couple of Eastern elites who talk of “parallel fronts” and “foundations of sustained success.” Their language is lacquered with a coat of varnish.
Sveum is a baseball rat from Richmond, Calif., who sports tattoos, rides motorcycles and cheers for the Oakland Raiders. His acquaintance with the King’s English often comes via collision course.
And that’s fine. Sveum’s milieu is infield dirt rather than spreadsheets, but he and his bosses do speak the same baseball language.
Last week Sveum won the hearts and minds of many a sabermetrician when he spat tobacco juice on batting average as a key stat, instead invoking slugging percentage and OPS. That’s part of what made Sveum the favorite to get the job a year-and-a-half ago.
So it’s a bit surprising that, barely one month into his second season, Sveum found himself talking with reporters Monday in Cincinnati about his own future.
The Cubs’ 5-12 record heading into a three-game series certainly is one factor. Coming off last year’s 101-loss season, the Cubs desperately wanted to get off to a good start.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the losses have begun to pile up early, and the Cubs have played sloppy baseball. Six errors by six different players over the weekend in Milwaukee sunk them in that series.
Then, Sveum talked of the quaint notion of players needing to perform at the big-league level.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t think about (myself) through some of this stuff,” he told reporters. “That’s stuff you don’t have control over. I have control over my job and my coaching staff to prepare everybody every day, and that’s all I can do.”
Sveum did say he had the full support of Epstein and Hoyer. No doubt the bosses were a bit perplexed, though, when Sveum made it easy to draw the inference that young stars Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro could find themselves in the minor leagues because of either poor fielding, a lack of concentration or poor production.
In fairness to Sveum, he never did single out Rizzo and Castro by name, but he probably could have stated upfront that there is no chance (for many, many reasons) either will be on his way to Iowa.
“You guys asked me,” Sveum said to the media. “Those guys couldn’t get sent down, and I said nobody’s exempt. They’re not the only ones (making mistakes) … I’m not pointing fingers at them or anything, I’m just saying, ‘Hey, we’re all (accountable) in this.
“I’m (not) exempt (from) being fired … We’re all in this together as a team. As coaches, manager, we try to get people better on the team.”
So just like Castro and Rizzo, Sveum isn’t going anywhere. For now, that’s as it should be.
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